On Ur(uguay) Bike

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Nov 29, 2014

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Saturday, January 11, 2014


Although Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America, it has a stable economy and is a refreshingly democratic state. Just last year, same sex marriage became legal as did the legalisation of marijuana to help eradicate drug cartels.

No sooner had we arrived at Pocitos Hostel in Montevideo, we'd skipped down to the shore, excited to cool our tired, battered feet in the Atlantic Ocean. As we approached the packed beach, it became clear that this was no competition for the Brazilian beaches that we had become accustomed to. Now, the sand was beautiful, but the land, littered with unfriendly, imposing concrete buildings made it look like the Mersey. Despite a murky sea polluting the shoreline, the humidity meant it was too uncomfortable not to have a paddle. Haviana's insitu, grimacing as we waded in, we'd returned to our place in the sand after a minute or two as something touched my foot. It was probably another plastic bottle, but no worries, I mean, you don't come to Montevideo for the beach, surely!?

By hiring bikes, to cruise around the city, we were able to see everything we wanted in a day, but saddle sore was the price paid, in addition to $US15 per bike. It was all rather underwhelming, since Buenos Aires was still etched into our minds and we unfairly compared the two cities.

David led the way, detouring around the red light district, thinking it would be funny. The only thing that was funny was us, apparently. David dressed in his pink Argentinian football vest and purple bandana combo, meant that there wasn't a person we passed who didn't stare, point and giggle. The only people who didn't have a gawp were the stoners sat around a garden surrounding a fountain, dotted with creepy plastic elves, flamingoes and flowers.

One sight we wanted to visit was the neoclassical 'Teatro Solis', one of 15 theatres in Montevideo. We were a bit late for our tour joining Barbara, the solitary attendee and Hernan, our guide. It soon became clear that Barbara was a keen opera enthusiast and enjoyed a flirt with 20-odd Hernan.
In her sultry, almost sexy, American drawl, she bombarded poor Hernan with questions and requests, including:

Barbara: "Hernan, tell 'em how much a ticket to see a concert is. Oh god, maaaan, they'll die"!!

Hernan: "They are around 100-170 Uruguayan dollars" (about £3-£5).

Barbara: "Are you guys still breathing?"

On her mission to impress, Barbara also mentioned that she had visited the famous Scala in Milan, where she sat in the cheapest seats yet the acoustics were still so mesmerising:

Barbara: "Guys, it was like, the oboe player, was sitting on my lap".

We thought she'd orgasamed.

David had already asked several interesting questions, but proceeded to inquire...

David: "errrrm, so how do you errrrm, clean this place?"

We all looked at him. Was he serious?

Hernan: "We have very good cleaners", anything else?"

David: "Ooh, look at the light bulbs, some of those need changing!"

Was he having a funny turn?
Anyway, the guide thanked David for noticing and said he would make a note of the missing lightbulbs.

As frugality is back on the menu, we scoured the supermarket shelves for cheap dinner ingredients. Considering Uruguay is the most expensive country we've been to in South America, we were pleased with our £2 per head Spag Bol, including cheesecake and vino tinto.

While in Uruguay, our relationship has reached a whole new level. David asked me, ever so casually, to hand wash underpants he'd been wearing for three days. I'm not sure I could EVER commit to such a proposal.

Checking out, for which we were suffering a Pueblo Sol hangover, the hostel would only accept cash despite their website stating otherwise. The hostel's litany of foul-ups was damning; no hot water, no electricity in our room, broken A/C, a lack of card paying facility (which the website clearly stated), and to top it all off the most unreliable wifi in Uruguay. My request and complaint feel of deaf ears, but thankfully, there was only one thing for this situation... David "The Negotiator" Owen.

Off he went, calmly and confidently, listing the complaints one by one, he had her attention and he maintained eye contact. Some how he got the hostel worker to ring the hostel manager and he cooly relayed the hostel's downfalls whilst securing a 15%25 discount on our stay. Maybe his time at the Venn Group has had a lasting effect.

After paying, the hostel worker beamed her fake smile at us and cranked up the music as we prepared to leave the hostel. Firstly up, Jessie J's, "It's not about the money", boomed out, as she stomped around singing at the top of her voice. If that wasn't a big enough hint to bugger off... Radiohead's "Creep" was next on the hostel's speakers.... hmmm, our cue to leave. And we did, right after I shoved their Argentinian guide book, 2012 version in English, into my backpack.

Hopefully no one from Pocitos Hostel has read this...
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